Rivals Look To Rein In Versteeg, Watzinger at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

What a difference a week made in the Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires.

Clark Toppe led JDC Motorsports teammate Austin Versteeg, 38-36, entering Rounds 3, 4 and 5 of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)-sanctioned Official Development Series June 30-July 2 at Watkins Glen International.

But Versteeg, 17, from Sandy, Utah, exited The Glen with a 96-74 lead after sweeping all three rounds in his No. 7 JDC Motorsports √Član DP02 chassis powered by a Mazda engine and racing on Cooper Tires.

There are still nine rounds remaining in the series, but Versteeg’s points gap grew to more than a race’s worth with his dominant weekend in upstate New York. So a strong performance in Rounds 6 and 7, July 8-10 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) in Clarington, Ontario, will be essential for Toppe and other close pursuers if they wish to rein in Versteeg’s title charge.

Toppe, 18, from The Woodlands, Texas, fell to second in points after Watkins Glen. But he has history on his side in Canada. Toppe earned one of his three victories in his rookie season in 2015 on the challenging 10-turn, 2.459-mile (3.957 km) circuit at CTMP. He finished second in his other start last summer at the track.

While Versteeg shook up the standings with his three victories, one fact about the series remains unchanged: JDC is dominating. Versteeg’s sweep extended the team’s streak of consecutive Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires victories to 23 races, dating back to August 2014.

Series rookies Max Hanratty, Michael Whelden and Kyle Masson are emerging as the biggest threats to JDC’s hegemony.
Hanratty, from Milwaukee, finished third, fourth and second in the three rounds in the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry at Watkins Glen to leap into a tie for third place with new teammate Whelden.

Whelden, from Sausalito, California, finished third in Round 5 to stay within reach of Versteeg and Toppe in the standings in his first event weekend with Extreme Speed Motorsports.
Gerhard Watzinger used consistent speed to keep the Lites 1 Masters championship lead at Watkins Glen.
Masson, from Windermere, Florida, earned his first career Prototype Lites podium finish by placing third in Round 4 at Watkins Glen in the No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports entry. He also placed fourth in Round 3.

Newcomer Andreas Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, made a promising Prototype Lites debut at Watkins Glen in the No. 43 Performance Tech Motorsports entry. He finished fifth, sixth and fourth, respectively, in the three rounds to vault to fifth in the overall standings.
Versteeg wasn’t the only driver to establish a gap over his competition in the championship race at Watkins Glen.

Gerhard Watzinger padded his Lites 1 Masters championship lead from four to 13 points, 80-67, over Todd Slusher with a consistent week of speed in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Watzinger, from Naples, Florida, produced two fourth-place finishes and a third place at Watkins Glen in the No. 32 ONE Motorsports entry.

Canadian Michal Chlumecky is the driver that title contenders Watzinger, Slusher and Jon Brownson are watching in their rear-view mirror. Chlumecky, from Windsor, Ontario, won all three Lites 1 races last week at Watkins Glen in the No. 31 Eurosport Racing car to climb into a tie for third place with Brownson with 60 points.

Don Yount is another driver who could surge forward in the standings at CTMP like Chlumecky did at Watkins Glen. Yount, from Dallas, produced two second-place and one third-place finish at The Glen in his first three starts of the season in the No. 27 BAR1 Motorsports entry. That impressive season debut helped Yount leap to seventh in the standings with 52 points, just 28 behind leader Watzinger.

The gap between fifth and eighth place is tight in the Lites 1 Masters standings. Just 11 points separate fifth-place Naj Husain from eighth-place Joel Janco.

Practice sessions at CTMP are scheduled from 8:45-9:15 a.m. (ET) and 4:15-4:55 p.m. Friday, July 8. Qualifying is scheduled for 8:45-9:05 a.m. Saturday, July 9, followed by the 30-minute Round 6 from 5:35-6:05 p.m. that afternoon. Round 7, a 45-minute race, takes place from 8:40-9:25 a.m. Sunday, July 10.

For more information about Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, visit www.imsa.com, follow hashtags #MazdaLites and #MRT24 @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.

Practice: 8:45-9:15 a.m. and 4:15-4:55 p.m. (ET) Friday, July 8
Qualifying: 8:45-9:05 a.m. Saturday, July 9
Round 6 (30 minutes): 5:35-6:05 p.m. Saturday, July 9
Round 7 (45 minutes): 8:40-9:25 a.m. Sunday, July 10
Race Coverage
Live timing: All on-track sessions at scoring.imsa.com and on the official IMSA App for iOS, Android and Windows
Twitter: Live text commentary from all sessions at @IMSALive

About Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires
Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, an International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Challenge Series, is in its 11th season in 2016. The series provides thrilling action and grooms drivers for future WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition in the Prototype and Prototype Challenge classes.

The two classes of competition in the Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires series take drivers and teams down unique, exciting roads of prototype sports car racing. Nimble, high-tech, purpose-built Lites 1 machines pack in the power with a 230-horsepower, 2-liter Mazda engine designed to prepare aspiring professionals for prototype competition in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and offer a challenging environment for mature semi-professional drivers, including competition in a Masters Championship. Equally capable and cost-effective Lites 2 machines offer new competitors a perfect introduction to the world-class competition offered by IMSA.

For more information about Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, visit www.imsa.com, follow hashtag #MazdaLites @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.

About IMSA
The International Motor Sports Association, LLC (IMSA) was originally founded in 1969 and owns a long and rich history in sports car racing. Today, IMSA is the sanctioning body of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the premier sports car racing series in North America. IMSA also sanctions the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, as well as four single-make series: Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama; Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama; Ferrari Challenge North America; and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America. IMSA – a company within the NASCAR family – is the exclusive strategic partner in North America with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) which operates the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The partnership enables selected IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competitors to earn automatic entries into the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. For more information, visit www.IMSA.com, www.twitter.com/IMSA or www.facebook.com/IMSA.